“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I have heard that quoted at least twice in the last two weeks the Enterprise City School Board meeting on June 25, 2013 and again at the Enterprise City Council meeting on July 2, 2013 regarding the divided house that is now Enterprise, Alabama, a city divided.
That is a reference to a scripture verse and a quote from a speech by Abraham Lincoln. In Mark 3:25 in the English Standard Version Jesus says, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” The speech by Abraham Lincoln was given on June 16, 1858 at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, IL upon acceptance of the Republican nomination for that state’s U.S. Senator when he said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Begging is not productive
I have also heard the mayor of Enterprise begging at both meetings for the citizens of Enterprise to come together and, for some reason I am yet to understand, magically start to trust members of the school board whom many believe have not dealt honestly, fairly, or even legally with the former Superintendent of Enterprise City Schools as well as the people of Enterprise.
Many accusations and rumors have circulated around Enterprise regarding this situation. I know people involved on both sides of the issue, went to school with some of them, go to church with some of them. Some were my teachers or administrators when I was in school here many years ago. Those rumors and accusations will continue to circulate and grow I suspect until these issues are addressed and resolved. It would do me or anyone else no good to repeat those here so I will refrain from doing so. When I do add my comments within this section they will look like this.
I believe the facts do bring up some interesting and pretty obvious questions. Until these questions are answered satisfactorily for the citizens of Enterprise in some of these meetings, or, if need be, in a court of law, the city will remain divided. When there is as much distrust between one group of people and those that are charged with making decisions in their best interest as there is here now a change has to occur to start down the road of rebuilding the trust that has been lost.
What I would like to provide first are the facts that are undisputed and then what I believe needs to be done for the city of Enterprise to have any chance at coming together and moving forward. You can see the minutes of these meetings at the Board of Education’s web site and videos at Southeast Sun’s YouTube channel.
May 28, 2013 School Board Meeting
In the May 28, 2013 school board meeting the results of a an evaluation by Dr. James Wright with Professional Services, LLC on the performance of Dr. Milner, the now former Superintendent of Enterprise City Schools. Dr. Wright said this was one of the strongest evaluation results he had seen. He said these strong results were an indication of Dr. Milner’s ability and efforts to work with the board.
June 18, 2013
Dr. Milner resigned as Superintendent of Enterprise City Schools and gave a 30 day notice in an email to the school board.
June 19, 2013 Special Called Board Meeting
School Board Vice President Joe Paul Stewart and School Board attorney J. P. Sawyer resigned. Ross Cotter was elected President of the School Board and Gloria Jones vice president by acclamation as no second to the nominations were given.
June 25, 2013 School Board Meeting
I attended this meeting along with several hundred other local citizens and news media. What I learned at this meeting from at least two of the existing board members if we, the citizens, had been at prior meetings then we would not have the situation we have now.
What this says to me is they believe they need to be watched and monitored so they do not make unwise or even illegal decisions. I can remember a time when the people chosen to serve in the capacity of school board member were expected to be of good character and to make wise decisions whether anyone was there to watch them or not.
Several former school teachers, administrators and citizens spoke at the meeting and members Cotter, Jones and Brown were asked to resign, which did receive much applause unlike when the mayor spoke and there was silence.
What I also noticed at this meeting is the board members were asked specific and direct questions and chose to not answer many of them. This would have been an opportunity for them to respond and try to set the record straight from their perspective but choosing not to do so says something altogether different.
I also attended this meeting, which was standing room only, but the room is much smaller than the one used for the school board meetings. Local news media was in attendance at this meeting as well. The mayor covered the agreement made between the city and the school board that is one of the areas of concern for the citizens and school system. The agreement was made and approved by both the city council and school board so it does exist. The disposition of that agreement and what will happen when the $550,000 payments are supposed to start in 2016 does appear to be in the hands of the city. They do claim they will review the agreement and economic condition of the city and the school system at that time and determine if the payments will be required or not.
There were also statements made by the city attorney, Rainer Cotter, who is the son of the current President of the School Board, Ross Cotter, Joe Paul Stewart, former School Board Vice-President, Perry Vickers, former principal of Dauphin Junior High, and Dr. Jim Reese, former Superintendent of Schools.
The summary above is just that, a summary, and is not intended to be all-inclusive. I do believe there is enough information provided for anyone to be read-in on the situation and able to form their own opinions on these events. Here are some questions that seem rather obvious to me and remain unanswered.
1) What happened to cause the Superintendent of Schools, who was well respected in Enterprise and just rated one of the best in the state of Alabama, the School Board Vice President and the School Board attorney to all resign within 16 hours? Did they all just decide it was time for a change coincidentally at the same time or was something else going on to cause these mass resignations?
2) Since it is the belief of many in Enterprise the three members of the school board asked to resign in the June 25th meeting were planning to vote to fire the superintendent and not accept his resignation, how can this same group of people be expected to select a qualified candidate as the new superintendent? How can anyone they select not be seen as just a figurehead? I don’t believe they can. Why would anyone want to be hired into this situation?
3) Could there be a conflict of interest in any discussions between the school board and city council regarding the disposition of $32,000,000 since the school board members are appointed by the city council?
4) Would it be better for all concerned if the school board members were elected?
My suggestion as to what has to be done for any healing, coming together or moving forward to occur in Enterprise is for Mr. Cotter to resign his position as school board member. It would be better if we started with a clean slate of board members and members Brown and Jones were to resign as well. If they do really want to do what is best for the Enterprise City School System and the city of Enterprise that is what they would do.
As I mentioned earlier, the begging for us to come together and move forward and repeating the “house divided” quote without any changes is not working and will not work. There need to be changes made to show the citizens of Enterprise there is a reason for us to believe we can come together and move forward. There is no trust to build on now between the citizens of Enterprise and the School Board.
This would allow new members to be appointed (still not the best way to do this in my opinion – see question 4 above) to join the two members recently added and then some level of trust can be restored and the city can begin to heal, come together and move forward. If they choose not to do this and believe they can serve with any support from the citizens of Enterprise I believe this is a gross miscalculation on their part and just shows their resolve to hold on to their position or power and will confirm the accusations many have made. They would not have to admit they have done anything wrong, which they may not have, and just state they are doing this for the good of the school system and the city of Enterprise. This, however, would be doing something right.
With the current system of school board members being appointed by the City Council there does need to be some way the citizens can have input as to who these appointees are. If not, we could be back in the same situation again.
What are your thoughts? Please click the ‘Leave a reply’ link under the title of the post above.
Until next time…
Originally posted on Peculiar Perspective on 7/05/2013